By: Brett Dickinson and Barry Kamen
The 2014 trade deadline will likely go down as one of the most exciting days of all time. Two aces changed addresses, World Series champions were shipped out and All-Stars were sent to other sides of pennant races. So after the dust has settled, the standings have not changed but the strongest teams in the AL have just gotten that much stronger. In the end, if the Orioles do keep up the pace and make the playoffs, they will see one of these stacked rosters come October at some point. So which team made the moves that might push ahead of the likes of Baltimore and into a World Series? Which team should the Orioles fear the most in the AL now?
Detroit Tigers (Brett)
Well it may have been one of the final trades of the day, but the Tigers made the biggest splash for the biggest commodity. Finishing off the day by acquiring former Cy Young Award winner David Price certainly fills the mantra “saving the best for last.” As a team that already has two other Cy Young winners in Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, and a legit front of the line starter in Anibal Sanchez, Price may be better than all of them.
Could the Orioles have made an comparable offer to get an ace from the Tampa Bay Rays? The likes of Chris Davis and a combination of a young pitcher (Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy or Hunter Harvey) may have been enough for a deal. But Baltimore obviously was not willing to part ways with key pieces of their future. And the Rays likely did not want to deal within the division either.
Though the Tigers had to give up their everyday centerfielder in Austin Jackson (along with young starting pitcher Drew Smyly and shortstop prospect Willy Adames), they have plenty of fire power left in their lineup with All-World hitter (and two time MVP) first baseman Miguel Cabrera, along with All-Stars designated hitter Victor Martinez and second baseman Ian Kinsler. Oh by the way, almost half their roster has World Series experience to help guide them through a tough series in October. And if they can bank on their starters to keep them in the game through 7th,8th or even 9th inning, anyone would pick Cabrera (and company) to come through with enough runs to handle their playoff competition.
The biggest question with this team is the back end of their bullpen, which they addressed by acquiring closer Joakim Soria from the Texas Rangers a couple weeks ago. Detroit is certainly a complete team, that made the extra effort on July 31st to get over the hump. With the most decorated starting rotation in league history, any team should have some fears heading into a seven game series.
Oakland Athletics (Barry)
It is often said that in the playoffs, good pitching beats good hitting. After acquiring Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel in a mid-July deal, as well as former Red Sox ace Jon Lester at the trade deadline, the Oakland Athletics firmly believe in this philosophy. The trade involving Lester and OF Jonny Gomes for OF Yoenis Cesepedes on the morning of July 31st may not have been the BEST trade of the day, but it was the most important. The Athletics are in position to win their third straight American League West title, but their lack of playoff success over the past two seasons frustrated the front office and the fanbase. In Lester, the Athletics get a pitcher who has won two World Series rings with Boston and was vital to the Red Sox run in the 2013 playoffs, finishing with a 4-1 record (2-0 in the World Series) and an ERA of just 1.56.
Trading away Cespedes, a fan favorite who wows the masses with his arm and home run power, will be difficult to replace. However, the combination of Gomes and another new acquisition, Sam Fuld, will do a fine job as platoon players. A healthy Josh Reddick will help substitute the home run numbers of Cespedes, while Gomes (career .335 OBP) and Fuld (.370 OBP with Minnesota) each have something to offer to manager Bob Melvin. For a team that relies heavily on their farm system and savvy free agent signings, it is refreshing to see Billy Beane and co. make trades with an eye on late October baseball. The Athletics are no longer going to settle for winning the division; acquiring Lester, Gomes, and Fuld at the trade deadline keeps them at the top of the American League food chain.
I expect the Athletics to finish with the best record in the American League, which means that if the standings held, the Orioles would avoid Oakland until the championship series should both teams make it that far. For a team that will throw Samardzija, Lester, Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir in a seven game series, there isn’t a single pitching matchup that would favor the Orioles. All four of Oakland’s starters would be Baltimore’s number one starter, and having two dominant right-handed and left-handed starters will pose problems for any team in a playoff series.
There is still plenty of baseball left to be played, and there is no guarantee that the Orioles can hold off the surging Blue Jays or the stubborn Yankees for the American League East crown. After the trade deadline, the East division became much weaker as a whole, which makes the Orioles and their acquisition of relief pitcher Andrew Miller look that much better. With the difficult West coast trip over and done with, time will tell if the Orioles can play their way into an ALCS series with either of the big trade deadline winners.
For more on the MLB Trade Deadline, listen to the Brett & Barry Show with Brett Dickinson and Barry Kamen this Saturday from 9a-12p on AM 1570 and WNST.net!